PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Dec. 20, 2014) -- U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Christopher Bentley, the Train, Advise, Assist Command - East Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Paul Lebedine, the Kabul-based Advise and Assist Cell Commander, and Canadian Army Lt. Col. Christopher Comeau, the AAC - Southeast Liaison Officer traveled to Forward Operating Base Thunder, headquarters of the 203rd Afghan National Army Corps in Paktya province, to talk about the transition of advising efforts in southeastern Afghanistan, Dec. 10, 2014.
3rd Cavalry Regiment service members comprise the TAAC-E advisory platforms responsible for advising 203rd Corps and Afghan police forces in southeastern Afghanistan; however, the TAAC-E advisory teams are no longer collocated with their Afghan counterparts.
In October, the advising effort in southeastern Afghanistan transitioned to level-two advising, meaning TAAC-E members now fly to advise Afghan forces in that region as needed. Most of the advising with 203rd Corps is now done by telephone and email on a daily basis; advising from afar is a big milestone for U.S. coalition forces and Afghan security forces.
The infrequent advising trips, called expeditionary advisory packages, are planned and coordinated with Afghan counterparts to check in and assist where advisors find themselves helpful and to check on Afghan projects. Since the transition to level-two advising nearly two months ago, TAAC-E advisors conduct EAPs only a couple times each month.
The Dec. 10 trip was the first opportunity for Bentley and Lebedine to discuss the transition to level-three advising, where the Kabul-based AAC will assume advising responsibilities from TAAC-E in early 2015.
"The meeting signifies the next stage of the train, advise, and assist mission," said Lebedine. "Based on the continuing progress and capabilities of the 203 Corps and the security forces in the region, the adviser responsibilities of TAAC-E will transition to a team that will primarily focus on sustainment issues from the Resolute Support HQs in Kabul."
During the meeting, Bentley and Lebedine discussed the key issues that TAAC-E currently advises 203rd Corps on, as well as the logistics and security requirements of conducting the EAPs.
The generals also met for an office call with Maj. Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, the 203rd Corps Commander, and senior members of the 203rd Corps staff to discuss the transition to level-three advising. Yaftali talked about 203rd Corps progress and improvements since the advisory teams left Paktya province in October.
One example of an improvement was the establishment of a permanent observation post high on a ridgeline overlooking the valley the 203rd Corps headquarters resides in. The new outpost gives 203rd Corps troops the ability to maintain better surveillance of the area and provide quicker response when militant activities are observed.
The withdrawal of U.S. coalition forces from the area has enabled 203rd Corps and Afghan security forces to do more to resolve their issues in a way they are able to sustain.
The AAC begins level-three advising of 203rd Corps and Afghan security forces in southeastern Afghanistan in January. As other Afghan army corps and regional security forces continue to progress in 2015, the AAC will assume level-three advisery responsibility from each of the five TAACs currently partnered with Afghan security forces.
By 2016, the AAC will conduct advising of all Afghan security forces from Kabul.